If you ask people with various disabilities what one of the most annoying things they face in day-to-day life is, a lot of them will tell you it’s the low expectations of others. So often, people will assume that they are totally incapable in every way, simply because of a single disability in one area.
It’s obvious, when you take the time to think about it, that a disability in one area doesn’t stop a person from being just as capable as everyone else in other areas. One little girl would prove that fact in one of the direst situations imaginable…
From when she was very young, Lexie’s parents knew that the life that lay ahead of her would be very different from most people’s. That’s because she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a lifelong disorder that currently doesn’t have a cure.
Cerebral palsy is a disorder of movement, muscle tone, or posture that’s caused by damage that happens during the development of the brain. The symptoms can vary a lot from person to person but for Lexie, it meant that she was unable to walk or speak…
Of course, her condition didn’t mean her parents loved her any less. It just meant the parents from Halifax, Nova Scotia would have to do things a bit differently with Lexie than they had with her older brother. She would need to use a wheelchair to get around and, because she couldn’t vocalize, they would have to learn to communicate in other ways.
Despite the assumptions people might make based on her outward appearance, her mother Kelly would describe her as a bright and happy girl. She grew up in a home full of love and, by the time she was approaching her 9th birthday, there was nothing Lexie loved more than her 1-year-old brother Leeland…
At just 18 months old, Leeland had only been walking for a few months, using his newfound mobility to explore his world with the infinite curiosity that defines that time of a person’s life. Lexie loved to play with the toddler and watch him as he walked around the house.
That’s exactly what she was doing on the Saturday morning of her 9th birthday as her family was making preparations for her party that afternoon. Her father was out picking up her older brother, her mother was upstairs getting changed, and Lexie and Leeland were downstairs with their grandmother Nancy…
As Leeland was tottering around the room, Nancy left the two of them in the living room for a moment to see to something in the kitchen. That’s when Leeland did something he’d never done before. While standing by the living room’s sliding door, he managed to pull it open and step outside.
When Lexie saw her brother going outside, her heart rate began to rise. As he waddled toward the edge of the family’s swimming pool, she began to panic. When the toddler slipped into the pool she began to scream like she never had before…
At the sound of her daughter’s cries, adrenaline shot through Kelly’s system. “I panicked and immediately thought ‘Oh no, she must have fallen off her chair,’ “ she said. Kelly rushed down the stairs as fast as she could to get to her daughter, now yelling to her own mother, Lexie’s grandmother.
“You know when you’re having a nightmare and you feel like you’re screaming and nothing is coming out?” Kelly said. “I was screaming so loud and I just felt like there was nothing I could do. I knew I couldn’t get down the stairs in time so I’m praying that my mom’s hearing me yell while I’m running down the stairs.”…
At the same time, Nancy was rushing from the kitchen to the living room. Getting to Lexie first, she found the girl in her wheelchair, eyes wide. “She’s yelling and she’s pointing at the door and I realize Leeland’s not with her.” Following her granddaughter’s frantic pointing, Nancy rushed outside.
“I look outside, and I’m not seeing him,” Nancy said. “We had just refilled the pool, it was freezing cold, we had the tarp on top, and I ran. We didn’t have this gate. I ran, he’s right by the edge.” Nancy saw the top of her grandson’s head floating in the pool, the rest of him under the water.
Please Be Ok
“I died at that moment,” Nancy said. With the icy grip of fear clenched tight on her heart, the panicked grandmother immediately scooped Leeland out of the pool. “You know you’re praying, ‘Oh please, please be okay,’ “ she said. But when the toddler moved, some of that fear went away.
“I opened his mouth and water came out,” Nancy said. After a few moments of Leeland coughing up pool water, his breathing seemed to return to normal. After bringing him inside, they called an emergency hotline to determine what the next steps should be and, following their advice, they brought him to the hospital after stabilizing his condition…
A Million Hugs
“At that moment it was so scary,” Kelly said. “We hugged him a million times. In two seconds, a life can change and we are just thankful that Lexie was so quick to alert us.” Despite the physical challenges that she faced, the 9-year-old girl had acted quickly and heroically, saving her brother’s life.
For Kelly, her daughter’s heroism was an amazing gift but she wasn’t at all surprised that Lexie recognized the danger of the situation and acted quickly. “Some people think [of people with cerebral palsy] that because they have a disability, they are not able to do things, but if she could walk, she would have grabbed him and he would have never gone out there. Her disability is all physical. She is a very bright girl,” she said…
As news of the ordeal spread, Lexie’s heroism was recognized by the Halifax Regional Council and honored by the city’s police department for her actions. Mayor Mike Savage tweeted “Heroes come in all sizes” and Councillor Tony Mancini met with the family.
“It’s such a good story and it could have been different altogether,” Mancini said. “The fact that she’s in a wheelchair and non-verbal and she was able to communicate enough to make it crystal clear that something was wrong and meet her and she’s beautiful, she’s so bright, she’s so happy. These are the stories we need to share.”…
The danger had happened in the first place because Leeland’s family had underestimated the toddler’s abilities and mistakenly had left the sliding door unlocked. “He had never opened that patio door before,” Nancy said.
Since that day, the family has been more careful about keeping the door locked and also had a protective gate installed around the pool. While it is important to take away from this story that the capabilities of people with disabilities should not be overlooked, it’s perhaps equally important to remember that you should always take appropriate precautions to safeguard your young ones.